She was a 38 1/2 weeks full term baby, but something went wrong. I will never forget the severe physical pain, nothing like I have ever felt before with my previous two deliveries. The sound of my daughter slowly dying on the monitor in my ear at bedside, and the words Code Red coming over the hospital loudspeaker is something a mother never wants to hear. People were all around me, as they were running with my bed through the hall. The mask of anesthesia was placed over my face and I fell asleep.
The next thing I remember, I woke up to whispering and hearing my husband say, “I will tell her”, after I kept asking “Where is my baby?”. “Rachel,” he said, “She is in the PICU and she is a mess.”
Because of a placental abruption,where my placenta tore away from my uterus, cutting off all oxygen to my baby girl’s brain. She was technically dead for 2 minutes and 22 seconds, but God chose to give her back to us. That is the exact moment when I was grateful. I saw a positive instead of a negative. That is how we all chose to live with her, this family of five, the McAuley’s.
Every second without oxygen, every minute, took a motor skill from our daughter.
Mary Elizabeth McAuley was the first baby born that morning and we were proud to share her with everyone on TV who were waking up to coffee and seeing the heart warming commercial that everyone knew, straight from the PICU.
She was special! She was known!
Mary was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy (100 seizures a day decreasing to 3 a day). As the years went by and approximately 18 surgeries, she had a feeding tube, became bound to a wheelchair, was non-verbal, and developed scoliosis; but we could not let all of these titles stop Mary and the rest of her family from living.
I recently asked my husband, “What was it exactly that we said or did to make us choose to live the way we did with Mary? I can’t remember or pinpoint the moment?” He said, “We never wanted the boys, her brothers, Grant and Griffin, to be resentful of their sister or never wanted to not do things because of her disabilities, so we focused on her abilities.” I remember making a positive from a hard situation, and if Mary was happy and smiling and did not seem sad or have pity on herself, then how could we?
So we carried on living, just as normal able bodied families do.
Mary chuckled, she made facial expressions when she was mad or sad, she cooed, she cried when in pain, she stared at the things she wanted, she was strong mentally, she inspired those with whom she came into contact without ever saying a word. She couldn’t be cruel. She couldn’t be selfish. She loved everyone. She changed the Hendersonville Community with her magical and infectious smile. The one motor skill that was not damaged and the only disease that was contagious – was her smile.
She went to public schools, as all children would. She got in trouble, when she fussed at her brothers to get her way about a TV show, just as your kids would do. She went camping with a feeding pole and machine rolling through the campgrounds. She swam, biked, and ran with special equipment. We built a pool in our backyard so she could get in it without children staring or asking questions like why a teenager was in a diaper in the pool. She traveled on far away vacations with us so we had to rent an RV because she couldn’t fly. We got Mary a horse; knowing she couldn’t ride it, but stare at it. She went to her brother’s football games and she went to the playground at school and watched her friends play. She adored her friends! Sumner County has some of the best friends for special needs children.
Mary started her day, as usual, on Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015 by going to school. Around 10:30, I received a call that Mary was having non stop seizures and I rushed to pick up Mary. Her local doctors already knew Mary’s health was declining so they had Alive Hospice set for the future. The paperwork had just been completed.
I will never forget the night before Mary’s passing. The house was dark and quiet except for the sound of Mary’s oxygen machine. Tommy, Mary, and I had taken a nap due to the long day. Mary was stable after the seizures thanks to Tennessee Pediatrics and seemed to be so peaceful. Griffin, Mary’s brother, was home, talked to Mary and gave her a hug, as she laid on the couch. I phoned Mary’s older brother, Grant, at college around 10:00 P.M., twice, and he woke to answer the call. These are words that will stick with me, as I heard Grant talk to his little sister on speaker phone. “Hey, Mary. It’s me, Grant. Sorry you had a bad day. I will be home this weekend. Get better. I love you.”
After that phone conversation Mary appeared to have a stroke as her lips shifted a bit. Through the night, Mary had fallen into a coma. On Friday morning, September 3rd, Mary’s breathing was shallow and her daddy picked her up from the foot of her parents’ bed where Mary had slept for 14 years and carried her to the couch. She passed away peacefully in her daddy’s arms.